Buttercups, Native and Alien

To answer a question left in the comments of my previous post, all three of those species of buttercups are natives. As luck would have it, today is cold and rainy and I’m in the mood to do a little research, so for anyone interested, here’s a rundown of buttercups in Maryland.

The Biota of North America Program’s North American Plant Atlas lists twelve native and five alien Ranunculus species present in the state of Maryland. The Maryland Biodiversity Project adds one each native and alien to the list.

Natives:

Ranunculus abortivus  little leaved buttercup; common, found in most of Maryland

R. allegheniensis  Allegheny Mountain buttercup; supposedly found in Maryland, but no county data in BONAP and no records in MBP; state rank is S3

R. ambigens  water-plantain spearwort; state rank is historical, state status is endangered extirpated

R. caricetorum  swamp buttercup; not in BONAP; in MBP with no records; per the Integrated Taxonomic Information Service the species is now R. hispidus var. caricetorum

R. fascicularis  early buttercup; state rank is S1, state status is endangered; MBP has records in Howard, Prince Georges, and Washington counties

R. flabellaris  yellow water-buttercup; state rank is S1, state status is endangered; MBP has records in Montgomery and Prince Georges counties

R. hederaceus  ivy buttercup; state rank is S1, state status is endangered; MBP has records in Prince Georges and Charles counties

R. hispidus  bristly or hispid buttercup; very common, found throughout the piedmont

R. laxicaulis  Mississippi buttercup; state rank is S1, state status is endangered; MBP has records in Worchester county

R. micranthus  rock buttercup; found in southern piedmont (Howard and Montgomery counties)

R. pensylvanicus  Pennsylvania buttercup; state rank is historical, state status is endangered extirpated

R. pusillus  low spearwort; found in southern piedmont but status is uncertain

R. recurvatus  hooked buttercup, blisterwort; common, found throughout the piedmont

R. sceleratus  cursed buttercup; found in most of the piedmont

R. trichophyllus  thread-leaved buttercup or white water-crowfoot; no records in MBP; state rank is S1, state status is endangered; per ITIS it’s now R. aquatilis var. diffusus

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Rare, Threatened, and Endangered Plants of Maryland (April 2010) list adds the species R. carolinianus, with state rank uncertain and state status endangered extirpated.

In the Maryland Piedmont, there are only five native buttercups you’re likely to encounter; they’re the ones in bold above. And, there are three alien species that you’re very likely to encounter (in bold below).

Aliens:

R. acris  tall buttercup; common, found in the southern piedmont

R. arvensis   corn buttercup; not in BONAP, no records in MBP

R. bulbosus  bulbous buttercup; common, found in all of the piedmont

R. parviflorus  small flowered buttercup; not found in the piedmont

R. repens  creeping buttercup; common, found in most of the piedmont

R. sardous  hairy buttercup;  not found in the piedmont

All eight of these commonly encountered species are described in the New England Wild Flower Society’s excellent website Go Botany. Please, before you go pulling any plants on your property, do some research and make sure you’re pulling the aliens!

Regrets that I’m unable to photo-illustrate any of these species (except the three I posted about this morning).

I can’t write about alien buttercups without mentioning the notorious fig buttercup, aka lesser celandine, Ranunculus ficaria. Many sources (like BONAP and MBP) will list this plant as Ficaria verna, but by any other name it’s a buttercup and one of the worst invasives we have. See my post from March 31.

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